Supporters seek to save extreme sports program


Budget cuts might still claim Las Vegas' extreme sports program, but supporters are trying to rally people for one last effort to save it from the chopping block.

The options include fundraising. If the city doesn't have money for the program, perhaps the people who are fans can find the support from private sources.

"There are no other programs like it," said Michele Scovil, whose son, Brett, competes in freestyle BMX biking. "By eliminating this program, I feel you will do a great disservice not only to the kids, but to local businesses and parents.

"What can we do to save this?"

She put that question to Mayor Oscar Goodman on Friday at a public forum he holds periodically to hear from constituents.

Goodman said those who want to save the Office of Xtreme Sports should appeal to other council members.

"I have no problem with you lobbying the City Council," he said. "Nothing is in concrete at this point in time."

He also reiterated the position he has staked out regarding the city's unions, which have been asked to give up scheduled raises and accept an 8 percent pay cut in the next budget year.

"If our employees would go along with that, we wouldn't lose any of these great programs," Goodman said.

The extreme sports program's $188,000 annual budget covers the cost of two employees who run it. The program includes instructional classes and the Vegas Am Jam series of skateboarding and BMX competitions, which are run in conjunction with Clark County.

Even if the program is cut, the city's skateparks will remain open.

City leaders decided to cut the Office of Xtreme Sports instead of closing the Reed Whipple Cultural Center after fans of programs at the center protested.

There was another option, one that City Manager Betsy Fretwell recommended.

Though the city is holding positions vacant and planning to lay off 146 people, there is a job vacancy pool in case hires need to be made. The two positions for the sports program could have been funded from that pool, but council members decided against it.

Scovil started a petition in support of the program. On Friday afternoon, 271 people had signed it.

Scovil said she would try to raise replacement funds from businesses and individuals, but she's under a tight deadline. The City Council is scheduled to approve the next fiscal year's budget on May 18.

The competitions this program organizes are very important to the 1,500 or so annual participants, said Jason Parker, who sponsors a skateboarding team through his apparel business, Iakona Industries. These are kids who don't find the outlets they're looking for in more traditional athletic activities.

"It's amazing to see the impact it has" on young people's behavior and performance in school, he said.

"In a town where a sense of community is hard to come by, this is a step in the right direction," Parker said. "We're going to rally together and make this happen."

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

 

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